Are you the type who sees yourself teaching at the chalkboard solving equations, or are you the type who sees yourself sitting in the grass counting ladybugs? It takes all kinds, but sometimes there’s just no room on the schedule for fantasy-self. To narrow in on the math curriculum that best fits our season, we need to take an honest look at our situation and consider how much involvement we should have in our child’s math instruction. This will lead us to being able to find the right math curriculum and mode of delivery.
Analyze your situation
Begin by asking the following questions:
How much time do you have to commit?
Although math should be one of the top priorities in your child’s education, realities such as multiple children and multiple important subjects, plus all the essential responsibilities you have need to be factored into your plan.
Where are you in your math education?
Regardless of where you are in your math education, the good news is you can learn, and you don’t have to learn it all at once . You only have to stay a little ahead of your child. Either way, you need to make a plan for how much time you will need to prepare for lessons.
How is your relationship with your child?
Will they accept instruction from you, or do you butt heads? Do you speak the same learning language (learning style vs. teaching style)? What is your math history together as a teacher/student team? Your ability to cooperate and communicate with your child will have an impact.
Where is your child in his or her education?
Each child will require a different time commitment depending on factors such as age, learning style, or ability.
There are no right or wrong answers here. There should be no guilt about your reality. Approach this from a purely analytical perspective. Once you gain a realistic understanding of the situation and how much involvement you can or should have, you can look for a curriculum to support your goals.
Evaluating Curricula With Parent Involvement In Mind
Once you have a realistic view of your situation, and you have identified where you need the most support, you can begin evaluating curricula. Consider the following questions.
Does the time requirement fit what you have available to give?
Will the curriculum require you to prepare and provide all, most, or some of the instruction? Will you be doing the grading? Playing games and doing interactive activities will require extra time.
Does it support you where you are in your math education?
We aren’t all math experts. Some curricula are written for an average homeschool parent while others are written for math teachers. I knew I was in over my head when one of the curricula I was using talked about synthetic division and provided no explanation about what that was. Look at the sample lessons to gauge what this will look like.
Does your child feel comfortable with the course?
To gauge if your child is comfortable with a coure, try sample lessons. This may help you understand if the lesson is too long or short, if there is too much or too little reading, if there is enough instruction or too little.
Shifting the duties of teaching off of yourself
You may decide that you are in a season where it is best to call in some help. Thankfully we are in an age of homeschooling that includes a number of support options such as video instruction, interactive applications, group classes, and private tutoring. Each option comes with benefits and hurdles.
Video instruction takes some of the burden off of you and provides the initial lesson instruction. Whether choosing DVDs or streaming, both have technological limits. You may need to watch the lesson yourself so you can provide extra help. You are still responsible for grading and keeping progress moving forward. Videos can be boring or poor quality, so always view samples before investing in a costly program.
Interactive applications take more off your plate. Applications always have specific technical requirements related to your hardware, software, and internet connectivity. Most applications provide right or wrong grading, but they don’t always give enough or any feedback about where the student went wrong in their solution. It is important to verify that your child is retaining what was covered so that you don’t reach the end of the year in disappointment.
Group Classes or Private Tutoring
If you need professional help, there are options such as courses taught through academies, co-ops, and private tutors. They can be costly, but it could be exactly what you need to make this season of life work. Any of these options could go in two directions: the teacher provides all the instruction, lesson planning, grading, etc., or the teacher provides instruction/review as the student comes across difficult concepts. Who will do the driving for in person tutoring, or who will provide the tech support for online classes? Putting instruction into someone else’s hands puts you in a supportive role, but it is still important to verify that your child is making progress and retaining what has been taught throughout the year.
Understanding the reality of your situation is an essential first step in picking the best possible math curriculum for your child. This allows you to evaluate options from a position of reality instead of fantasy, and find something that supports your specific needs. You may find that shifting some of the duties off yourself is what is needed in this season of life, and there are a variety of services to help with that, but be cautious because they will still require something of you. Although choosing a math curriculum can be tricky, if you use an analytical approach, you can find the right curriculum for this season of your life.
You may also enjoy these other articles by Andrea Walters:
Choosing a Math Curriculum: Mastery vs. Spiral, 2022 Fall issue of Homeschool Indiana
What if Last Year Was A Math Disaster, The IAHE Blog